(c) Josh Sager – November 2014
Last night, the Democrats suffered devastating losses in the 2014 midterm election—not only did they lose the Senate majority, but they also lost seats in the House and several governorships. In the coming two years, we will all suffer the consequences of these losses and there is little that can be done to stop them.
Currently, we know that the Republicans will have at least 53 seats in the Senate (Louisiana will be doing a run-off), giving them a firm majority. They picked up seats in North Carolina, Colorado, Alaska, and Arkansas. Additionally, they won 15 new House seats, increasing their power in the House to 243 seats, to the Democrats’ 178.
In short, the Republicans now have majorities in both chambers of the legislature and can pass legislation at will. The only thing standing between them and passing legislation will be President Obama’s veto threat.
To further compound this, the Republicans will now have the power to appoint their politicians to powerful committee positions. The Republicans who are entering these positions (usually by raising huge amounts of money from interests involved in that committee) are wholly unqualified. For example, Jim Inhofe, a climate change denier, is going to be running the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. These new Chairmen will have the power to block bills from ever reaching the floor and will have a great deal of impact on what is even voted on (ex. good luck getting something that restricts fracking through Inhofe’s committee).
The average American midterm voter is, apparently, an imbecile. They just voted into power a corrupt group of extremists, lunatics, and fools, who belong to a party that exists to roll back the social progress of the 20th Century. These fools have condemned our country to a terrible few years and may have laid the groundwork for another great recession.
Over the past four years, the Republicans have paralyzed the federal government and done everything in their power to sabotage the health of the American people in a purely political attempt to destroy the president’s legacy. During this time, they have wasted millions of dollars in pointless attempts to repeal Obamacare, opened numerous investigatory witchhunts (ex. Benghazi), shut down the federal government, precipitated dozens of political hostage crises, and turned even basic housecleaning measured into uphill battles. In a sane world, their reward for this should be for them to be voted out of office and for them to have forfeited their pensions/health care.
Unfortunately, these days of obstruction have just gotten far worse, as the Republicans now have the power to go on the offensive. Instead of just blocking legislation unless the Democrats agree to their demands, they can simply pass their own extremists laws and dare Obama to veto them.
For example: they could attach an Obamacare repeal to every budget and highway bill, forcing Obama to choose between shutting down the government by vetoing those bills or accepting the destruction of his signature law. This power isn’t limited to repealing Obamacare, and the Republicans can use it to pass massive tax cuts, deregulate industry (if not the defunding of entire regulatory agencies), cut social programs, attack the rights of women, gays, and minorities, or do any number of reprehensible things.
Unlike in the past, the current Republicans don’t believe in government beyond its ability to kill darker skinned people abroad, lock up darker skinned people domestically, and give out money to the rich, thus there is almost no limit to the damage that they can cause while in power. They don’t worry about shutting down the government, destroying our school systems, letting our infrastructure fall apart or even risking another depression—this gives them the ability to freely take hostages and force things past Obama.
While many will argue that the Senate isn’t lost because the Democrats can simply use the filibuster to block damaging laws, this is a false hope. The filibuster is a Senate rule that can be changed by the whim of the majority and, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans will have no qualms eliminating it.
First, I predict that the Republicans will begin by eliminating the filibuster and consolidating power within their own party under its corporatist branch.—this is simply a function of them having the most money. The religious extremists will be placated with promises of ending abortion and attacking gay rights, while the neocons will be promised increased defense funding.
After eliminating the filibuster, the Republicans will begin attaching riders to necessary legislation (the bills that cannot easily be filibustered, like the NDAA or the budget) in both the House and Senate, passing it into law. There will be some fighting over whether these bills should be extreme-right wing or psychotic right wing, but I think that this will end quickly as the Republicans get impatient to start passing laws.
Some of the things that we will see attached to these bill include: Tax cuts on the rich, the repeal of Obamacare, the deregulation of polluting industries and the financial sector, abortion restrictions, cuts to welfare programs (ex. SNAP, heating assistance, etc.) and the transformation of certain federal programs into block grants and vouchers.
When Obama vetos these extremist bills, he will be attacked by the Republicans as shutting down the government and being a dictator, while the Fox News echo chamber stirs up the “controversy.” Unless the Democrats get on message and explain what is happening, this could result in a PR disaster if Obama is blamed.
Additionally, I think that it is very likely that the Republicans will now push for impeachment of Obama, either because of his immigration stances or over his use of executive actions. While there is no chance that the Republicans will be able to convict him in the Senate (they would need a super-majority), they will harp away at this issue to no end in an attempt to convince the American people that the Democrats are evil.
In real policy terms, I have several predictions:
- A “Grand Bargain” will be passed that combines tax cuts for the rich and the promise of reducing loopholes with “entitlement reforms” (read: cuts). Obama tried to get this in the past, but the Democrats didn’t play along. If the Republicans are sane and willing to take 80% of what they demand at no real cost, they will make such a bargain without demanding anything that Obama cannot accept politically (ex. repealing Obamacare) and send it to Obama to sign. It will pass, even if the Democrats don’t get on board.
- The Keystone XL pipeline will be approved. While Obama looks to have held strong on this issue, I doubt that he has the will to risk any real conflict over this issue. If given a choice between approving the pipeline or vetoing an important bill, Obama will fold just as he did with closing Gitmo (he refused to veto the NDAA over that issue).
- Regulations on petrochemicals and financial institutions will be eviscerated. These are major GOP donors (and, to a lesser degree Democratic donors) and I predict that the GOP will make cutting regulations on these industries a top priority so that they can pay back their benefactors (and ensure support in future elections).
- Strict anti-abortion laws will be put forward and, unless Obama fights back strongly, passed into law. These laws will likely violate the Constitution and will be challenged in court, precipitating legal cases that could possibly reach the Supreme Court.
In a worst case scenario, the austerity pushed on the poor reduces their buying power, thus reducing demand for goods—this causes a decrease in available jobs and starts a demand-side spiral. While this happens, the banks restart their casino capitalist betting ring and start creating more speculative bubbles. Eventually these speculative bubbles pop and the economy receives a sharp blow, that further exacerbates the growing job crises and initiates a repeat of the 2008 economic crisis. The erosion of the tax base caused by tax cuts and wars, combined with political obstruction, then creates a situation where it is impossible to stabilize the banks in time, and the entire country falls back into a recession. Then, to add insult to injury, the GOP begins blaming Obama for the crash and using it to convince the lemmings that they are the solution to big bad Obama’s economic failures.